When the bell rings for dismissal and the school buses are loading, not all of Connecticut’s children can or do go home. For too many, it means roaming the streets or just hanging out. Luckily, there are programs available, many of them very inexpensive, which provide a safe, educational and fun environment for children. While budget cuts and a weak economy have taken their toll, there are still places and programs in Connecticut for children, including those whose primary language is not English but Spanish. Here are five of the most highly recommended.
15 Lincoln St
Meriden, CT 06451
“Too many children and teens are not receiving the guidance they need to graduate from high school, to avoid the effects of violence, gangs and drugs or to become responsible adults,” so says Donald Maleto. Maleto is the executive director who heads up a large, enthusiastic and talented bilingual staff at one of the most popular and most highly praised of the many Boys and Girls Clubs in the state. From basketball leagues to woodcrafters groups and from archery and golf outings to “Power House Homework,” Maleto and his staff work hard to make the Meriden club a safe and fun place where, as he says, “children can learn and grow.” Their programs are offered in both English and Spanish.
162 Fillmore St
New Haven, CT 06513
Every afternoon, 22 yellow buses drop off packs of 7 to 12 year olds at the Farnam Neighborhood House in New Haven, whose after-school program is greatly appreciated and highly recommended by teachers, parents and the Department of Children and Families. Cathy Maddaloni, director of the nursery school for younger children, is very proud of the good work of the staff, many of whom are bilingual and provide a fun, safe and educational environment for their kids. There are arts and crafts programs, dance classes, an indoor basketball court, a table games room and even an Olympic-size swimming pool (with lifeguards) for fun and fitness activities, as well as homework assistance tutoring. At $75 for the school year per child, Farnam House is a bargain but also so much more.
29 Cedar St
New Britain, CT 06052
Even with a budget cut so deep that they cannot afford to have a website but only a Facebook page, The Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain manages to offer incredible, unique and inspiring programs for Connecticut school children, especially those whose primary language is Spanish. Mary Sanders and her bilingual staff offer career, job and college information programs for teens, as well as advanced ESL (English as a Second Language), Spanish GED, Life Skills and even basic computer classes (in Spanish). Her crowning achievement, however, is her work in teaching teens non-violent methods of conflict resolution.
Windham Middle School/Eastern Connecticut State University
123 Quarry St
Willimantic, CT 06226
In September, Rose Hernandez begins the second semester of a program she designed in cooperation with Eastern Connecticut State University to help Hispanic students “transition” from middle to high school and on to higher education. This is done, she says, by “getting kids to understand who they are culturally.” Using folkloric dance, music and art drawn from all Hispanic cultures, these after-school classes help the students “focus on education in a very positive way.” Due to budget limitations, the program does not have a website, but interested parents are encouraged to call the Windham Middle School where Ms. Hernandez serves as a family liaison coordinator.
240 N Hollow Road
East Hartland, CT 06027
The Wilderness School in East Hartland is blessed with a bilingual staff that provides a welcoming and helpful environment for all children, including those whose primary language is Spanish. The school offers “high-impact wilderness programs” that include camping, rock climbing, high ropes and other outdoor adventures. This is no mere camp but a school, whose goal, says enrollment director Bonnie Sterpka, is to build self-esteem, enhance interpersonal skills and “foster youth positive development.” The Wilderness School offers weekend activities during the school year as well as extensive 5 and 20-day programs during the summer.